Recycling the runway

Annual Eco-Fashion Show serves looks and facts about the industry's impact

By on April 25, 2018

In honor of Earth Day, the Quinnipiac community hosted many events to encourage students to be aware of their environmental impact. Acknowledging that the clothing industry is the second largest contributor to pollution in the world, the university hosted their fifth annual Eco-Fashion Show to raise awareness about these shocking statistics. Students modeled recycled fashion across the Carl Hansen Student Center piazza in order to celebrate Earth Day.

The event was held in the piazza Friday afternoon. Along the back of the piazza, Chartwells was holding their “Save the Bees” event. There was  fresh fruit in eco-friendly bowls, along with a goody bag that had candy and a paper with facts about bees and the environment.

The show was hosted by students in professor Hanna Hejmowski’s Eco-Fashion Design/Creativity for Wellness class. The students circled the piazza floor in their zero waste designs that they created from common household items.

“The dress I made was the one made of fake flowers,” one of the designers, Lindsey Goode said. “The dress was made in two pieces so the top was a collage of magazine clippings and the bottom was made of fake leaves and fake flowers that I found in my basement. It was perfect for Earth Day and spring.”

Almost a dozen students modeled their eco-friendly outfits, which featured materials such as coffee filters, shopping bags, paper flowers and even old clippings of The Quinnipiac Chronicle.

One student sported a mini dress that had old receipts on the top and transitioned into old shopping bags at the bottom.

The Eco-Fashion Design class is making huge steps towards making fashion more sustainable. Through the class, the students were able to become aware of the impact the fashion industry can have on the environment.

Goode finds that trends often repeat themselves through the decades.

“Jean jackets, jean skirts and chokers are back in style,” Goode said. “So instead of throwing out our old clothes, we should save them since there’s always a chance they could come back into style.”

Guest speaker and associate dean and assistant professor of fashion and sustainability at the Parsons School of Design Timo Rissanen gave a lecture about “Fashion Systems and Micro-Utopias.” Rissanen discussed his current research, which focuses on fashion and sustainability.

With Earth Day occurring in the past week, Rissanen took the time to reflect on the environmental impact that fashion has in society. He made it a point to emphasize how what we do today will always affect tomorrow.

“From August 3 to December 31, we were consuming resources from the future,” Rissanen said. “Or in other words, living off credit.”

The fashion industry is one of the largest consumers and polluters of water. Toxic chemicals washing into clean water and entering the ecosystems is becoming a huge source of pollution, especially in developing countries. Cotton accounts for 24 percent of the world’s insecticide use and 11 percent of pesticides. It takes over 2,000 liters of water to make one kilogram of cotton, according to the World Wildlife Fund. That roughly estimates to one t-shirt.

There is a lot of water but the problem is that 97.5 percent of it is salty. That leaves only 2.5 percent of the of freshwater on Earth and a third of that is frozen, according to Rob Renner, executive director of the Colorado-based Water Research Foundation.

Waste in the fashion industry is also posing a great threat to the environment. Rissanen pointed out that 60 percent of new clothes are thrown out about a year after they are bought.

“Think about the land, water and fertilizer used to grow the cotton that then must be turned into cloth and then into garments,” Rissanen said. “Even recycling does not justify that short of a lifespan.”

H&M recently released in their quarterly report that the retailer has over $4 billion worth of inventory that nobody is buying. New York Times fashion writer, Elizabeth Paton remarked in an interview with NPR stated that the first thing they’ll do is discount all their garments that customers haven’t expressed interest in.

In his speech, Rissanen mentioned that out of the 150 billion clothes that are produced, a third of them sell full priced, a third sell at discount price, and another third are discarded in the landfill. He claims that to reduce such extreme methods of waste, we’ll have to use our imagination. He alludes to a shop in Sweden that rents baby clothes because of how quickly infants grow out of clothes.

“As a fashion lover, I won’t stop supporting the fashion industry,” Goode said. “I learned from Timo Rissanen that the industry actually hurts the environment because of how wasteful people can be. We wear a shirt once and then we never wear it again but we don’t think about how the environment is affected by our wastefulness. There are tons of little changes we could make to our closets that would really benefit the earth and that was really my biggest takeaway from this class.”

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